Intensity and frequency: Dimensions underlying positive and negative affect


Diener, E., Larsen, R. J., Levine, S., & Emmons, R. A. (1985). Intensity and frequency: dimensions underlying positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(5), 1253.


Research on emotions and several happiness scales suggests that positive and negative affect are strongly inversely correlated. However, work on subjective well-being indicates that over time, positive and negative affect are independent across persons. To reconcile this inconsistency, 2 dimensions are proposed for personal affective structure: the frequency of positive vs negative affect and the intensity of affect. In 3 studies, 68 undergraduates and 34 33–85 yr old community residents completed daily and momentary reports on their moods. In support of the intensity dimension, the correlations between positive and negative intensity were strong and positive in all 3 studies. The intensities of specific emotions across Ss were also highly correlated. Across the 3 studies the frequency and intensity of affect varied independently. Although average levels of positive and negative affect showed low correlations, this relation became strongly inverse when intensity was partialed out. Thus, the intensity dimension helps explain the relative independence of positive and negative affect.

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